Welcome to Lee’s gardening advice for March 2021 written by local resident and keen gardener, Lee Stevenson (aka An English Gardener in Çalış).
Spring is in the air
Now that the warmer days are here it’s a perfect time to sow seeds if you’re like me and enjoy the challenge and surprise of what you can grow from a tiny seed.
If you’d rather start with young plants, these can be bought from the local markets. I bought four pink (pembe) tomatoes and two cucumber plug plants for the princely sum of 9TL, that’s just 1.5TL per plant so it’s not an expensive thing to grow your own and it’s certainly a lot more fun than having to pop to the shops.
Flowers are normally only available in their flowered state at the markets as they make a better display, so try to pick ones that are about to flower to enjoy the display for as long as possible. I’ve sown around 10 different types of flowers from seed (lupin, cornflowers, double hollyhocks, dahlia, zinnia amongst others) along with several different types of tomatoes (cherry, striped) including the atomic grape variety which is supposed to be a full-blown assault on the senses as it grows. The tomatoes form in clusters of lavender and purple stripes, turning to olive green-red, and brown/blue stripes. This variety is also resistant to cracking, which is great for growing here with the heat as sudden water can cause tomatoes to split.
I love to try and grow different plants/vegetables every year just to see the expression on peoples faces when they see or taste something different. I’m currently growing giant red mustard leaf, which is a large leafed salad plant that has a mustard taste and heat when eaten.
You can also use the warmer days to get out and plant shrubs or move them to a new position. Make sure you water-in any newly planted or moved plants well and keep an eye on them in the drier weather.
Don’t throw it away
It’s not just about what you can grow but also what you can make. I’m not a bin diver but since living here I have rescued many a plant from the bins, including a three-foot climbing rose with only two branches and hardly any roots. It’s now spread 10ft and is doing very well.
I see numerous aloe vera and cactus plants that have been thrown out including a cane cactus (image below). It was difficult to carry home without gloves and looked like it needed viagra when I salvaged it but once planted and helped to straighten with a well-placed stick, it is now growing happily and should reach around six feet this year.
I have also salvaged Barbados lilies and seeds from a dead orange cosmos plant from which I grew a plant that now self seeds itself in my garden. It flowers from March to November which is great as the pollinators love it.
It isn’t only plants you can find for free. I’ve salvaged plastic pots that had been thrown away – making sure they have not been used as a toilet by street animals first. If the pot looks dirty inside or you plan to place a delicate plant in the pot, it’s wise to wash it out first with a weak solution of cleaner in case it held a diseased plant before. I have also used ayran cups and old yoghurt pots to start seedlings off.
Clear plastic bottles make a great cloche to protect tender plants from cold spells or heavy rain. The bigger (19 litres) ones can even be used as planters and if you’re handy with a knife, you can cut holes to make a strawberry planter.
I also use one to protect the well motor from the winter rain.
You can also use takeaway forks as a deterrent to cats. Placed with the fork end upwards, it will make any cats think twice about using your fresh soil as a toilet. As I grow so many different plants from seed I use plastic spoons as plant tags, and they can be wiped off and used again.
I’m currently using an old shower screen and glass windows as a cold frame.
I use the reeds that seem to grow on any wasteland as canes for either plants that need support or to build my runner bean frame.
I mentioned in a previous article how to build an insect house using an old 1ltr milk or juice carton with hollow canes placed inside to give beneficial insects (solitary wasps/bees, spiders) somewhere to shelter. You can also use corrugated cardboard or straws and even an old can for the house.
Why not have a go at making a bird feeder out of waste pots? My bird table is just an old branch found in the garden when we moved here to which I added yoghurt pots with holes drilled in the bottom so that when it rains it just runs away.
Here’s an article from Natural Living Ideas about everyday items you can repurpose in the garden:
I leave you with this funny.
I poured beer over my garden before planting the lawn. I hoped it would come up half cut.
What do you want to know about gardening?
If you have any questions or suggestions about gardening and there is something in particular you wold like me to cover in future articles, please let me know via an English Gardener in Çalış or Fethiye Times.